What’s in a name? A woman wrote into the Reader’s Digest saying: “Several years ago, when I worked at the phone company, my boss introduced me to Ken, a new addition to our staff. But Ken misunderstood my name and said, ‘Nice to meet you Peggy.’ I didn’t want to embarrass him, so I decided to correct him later. But an opportunity never arose. So, finally, two months later, I walked into his office and said, ‘Ken, there’s something I’ve been meaning to tell you. My name isn’t Peggy. It’s Patti!’ After a long pause, he answered, ‘Well, Patti, there’s something I’ve been meaning to tell you. My name isn’t Ken. It’s Ben!’”

What’s in a name? The truth is our name is one of the most precious things we possess. That’s why it’s so cruel when children tease someone by making fun of their name. For example, when I was a boy, some of my classmates thought my last name was funny and started calling me “Shorts” instead of Schwarz. I laughed at the joke because I didn’t want them to know it bothered me. But the truth is that sort of thing isn’t funny at all. It’s only designed to hurt.

One couple, hoping to avoid this problem, gave their baby a whole series of names—139 of them to be exact! The headline read: “WHAT’S IN A NAME? DON’T ASK THIS GIRL!” Because even though her parents say they will call her Tracy, her office name is Tracy Mariclaire Samantha Jennifer Christine Diane Lisa Elizabeth Joan…I think you get the drift. Asked why they did it, her father said, “We just wanted to give her something for when she grows up.”

We didn’t get that carried away, but we were careful in choosing names for our girls. Wanting to choose names that not only fit their personalities, but also said something about what we wanted God to do in their lives, we finally settled on Heidi Elizabeth and Rebecca Danielle. Heidi Elizabeth means “female warrior dedicated to God,” because we sensed that she was going to have a very strong personality, but we wanted her to use it for the glory of God. Rebecca Danielle means “charmer protected by God,” because we hoped her personality would be a little milder. It isn’t. We have two beautiful adult daughters who love the Lord with all their hearts, but they both have very strong personalities that give them the courage and confidence to stand up and be counted for Christ.

The Bible also gives many other examples of how important names are. Abram (“exalted father”) became Abraham, “father of a multitude;” Jacob the cheat became Israel, “a prince with God;” and Simon became Peter, “a stone.” But the name which is above every name is that of our Lord Jesus Christ who, because of His infinite Personality, is known by many names in Scripture. In fact, I used to have a poster that hung on my wall listing 50 different names for Jesus, each one revealing something vital about His character. But the name I want to zero in on here is the one found in Matthew 1:23. Matthew says: “Behold, a virgin shall be with child, and bear a Son, and they shall call His name Immanuel.” Why is this name so powerful? Because of what it reveals about His presence. Matthew goes on to say, “They shall call His name Immanuel which translated is ‘God with us.’”

That truth will be the topic of my next few posts. In past weeks we’ve studied several aspects of His Personality including His knowledge, His goodness, His patience, His judgment, and His faithfulness. But now the focus shifts to His presence—the fact that He is both an always present and very present God. I hope you’ll take time to read each of these short studies because I’m convinced it’s by meditating on this truth that we can experience God’s presence in a new and fresh way. And there’s no greater blessing than that. For “in His presence is fullness of joy and at His right hand are pleasures forevermore.” So come back tomorrow and bring a friend. Who knows? It could change their life!

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